Sunday, June 30, 2013

Last-Ditch Motion To Stop CA Marriage Equality Denied By SCOTUS

A desperate (and frankly frivolous) motion to (again) stop same-sex couples from marrying in California and resuscitate Proposition 8 that was filed by the heterosexual supremacists at on Saturday was denied without comment by Justice Anthony Kennedy a little after noon on Sunday. Kennedy, who wrote the 5-4 majority in the pro-gay marriage decision striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act United States v. Windsor was actually in the minority of Justices in the 5-4 Hollingsworth v. Perry  majority deciding the fate of Proposition 8. Perry effectively ended California's state constitutional same-sex marriage ban from 2008 by denying the Proposition 8 proponents legal standing to continue their appeal of Vaughn Walker's 2010 ruling declaring the measure violated  the federal constitution.

SCOTUS blog reports the delightful news of the final nail being hammered in Proposition 8's coffin:
Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court had ruled that the measure’s backers did not have a legal right to defend the measure in either the Supreme Court or, earlier, in the Ninth Circuit Court. While the Supreme Court considered that case, the 2010 decision by a federal judge in San Francisco striking down “Proposition 8″ had been on hold. It was that hold (or “stay”) that the three-judge Circuit Court panel lifted on Friday. Very soon after that, gay and lesbian couples started getting married in ceremonies across the state. Thousands of such couples have now obtained marriage licenses from officials in the state.
Since Justice Kennedy offered no explanation for denying an application claiming that the Ninth Circuit panel had no authority to lift its stay, there is no way to know what legal rationale he had used. It could have been that the sponsors of the measure lacked a legal right to pursue their challenge further, that even if they had such a right it was without legal merit, that the lower court did have the authority to decide for itself when to lift the stay, or perhaps that events had just moved too rapidly in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that it would be inappropriate to try to roll them back.
Although attorneys for the ballot measure’s sponsors have been creative in finding new ways to try to press the challenge, the brief action by Kennedy on Sunday may have removed the final barrier to the full achievement of marriage rights for gays and lesbians in the nation’s most populous state. California is the thirteenth state where same-sex marriages can occur now, or soon, when new laws in a few of the states take effect this summer. The District of Columbia also allows such marriages.
The Hollingsworth v. Perry case (which began as Perry v. Schwarznegger)  is finally over. Proposition 8 is dead. The bittersweet feeling from election night on 2008 (Obama wins! Marriage Equality loses!) is now dissipated. The kultukampf is finished in California and the forces of "equal justice under law" have won this battle.

 But the culture war goes on in the country because there are 37 states which do not have marriage equality, and the vast majority of those states (exactly thirty, according to Wikipedia)  have explicit state constitutional bans on recognizing or enacting same-sex civil marriages. New Mexico and New Jersey are the only two states, I believe, that have neither laws or constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriages. I guess there must be five states which only have statutes banning same-sex marriages (according to Freedom to Marry, these five are Illlinois, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia and Wyoming).

In fact, New Jersey currently has a civil unions law, and Lambda Legal announced it is refiling a case there, opening up the famous Lewis v Harris New Jersey State Supreme course case which ruled that the legislature had to offer all the same rights and benefits to same-sex couples as it does to different-sex couples. With the addition of federal benefits to same-sex married couples, no state that purports to claim that a civil union meet the Lewis v. Harris (and 1999's Baker v. Vermont) standard has a legal leg to stand on.

In New Mexico, which also does not have any law banning same-sex marriages, the question of whether county clerks have the right to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples is being asked directly of the state Supreme Court. The Court has not decided whether it will take the case, and the state Legislature has repeatedly refused to pass legislation enacting marriage equality of even domestic partnerships.

And of course, in 29 states you can be fired (without a state-based legal recourse) if your employer merely thinks that you might be gay, lesbian or bisexual. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would make it illegal as a measure of federal law for that to be the case.

Putin Signs Virulently Anti-Gay "Propaganda" Bill Into Law

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a virulently anti-gay bill that would purportedly "protect minors" by banning "gay propaganda." The bill had previously passed the Russian legislature with almost no opposition, including near unanimity in the Duma, the lower House of Parliament, (436 to 0 with one abstention).

The Associated Press reports:
The lower house of Russia’s parliament unanimously passed the Kremlin-backed bill on June 11 and the upper house approved it last week.
The ban on ‘‘propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations’’ is part of an effort to promote traditional Russian values over Western liberalism, which the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church see as corrupting Russian youth and contributing to the protests against Putin’s rule. 
Hefty fines can now be imposed on those who provide information about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to minors or hold gay pride rallies. 
The Kremlin announced Sunday that Putin has signed the legislation into law.

The Washington Blade reports on opposition to the legislation and places its passage into the context of homophobia in Russia:
Putin signed the bill into law against the backdrop of growing concern over anti-LGBT discrimination and violence in Russia.
Two men in Volgograd and on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East in recent weeks have been killed during what local authorities have described as anti-gay attacks.
The State Department, the European Union and retired tennis champion Martina Navratilova are among those who have criticized Russian lawmakers and Putin over their opposition to LGBT rights in the country.
[Nikolai] Alekseev [of Gay Russia, an LGBT advocacy group] ]and a growing number of other LGBT rights advocates have also called for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the 2018 World Cup that will also take place in Russia.
“[They are] a very good opportunity to raise particular concerns,” Alekseev told the Blade earlier this month. “One of the ways for many countries would be to boycott these international sporting events because they take place in a country which doesn’t respect basic human rights.”

Gee, how many years behind the rest of the world is Russian on gay rights? 25 years? 30 years? Still thinking that telling kids about homosexuality or restricting access to information about gay rights will have any influence whatsoever on a child's sexual orientation isn't something I haven't thought about since the odious Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) and his "no promo homo" amendments in the mid 1990's or Margaret Thatcher's Tories supporting the infamous Clause 28 from the 1980's in Great Britain.

It will be very interesting to contrast the Winter Games in 2014 and World Cup in 2018 in an officially homophobic country like Russia with the World Cup in 2014 and Summer Games in 2016 in Brazil, which will have almost certainly enacted full marriage equality by then.

2013 WIMBLEDON Day 6: Less Than Half Of Top Seeds Remain

The first week of the 2013 Wimbledon Championships is now complete, with 16 men and 16 women remaining undefeated. All 32 will be competing in singles matches on Monday, what ESPN likes to call "the greatest day in tennis all year": the Round of 16 at Wimbledon. After Wednesday's historic day of carnage when seven former World #1's lost on the same day, some order was restored in the next two somewhat rainy days of play to finish off the first week of play. That being said, only 4 of the women's top 10 seeds and 5 of the men's top 10 seeds remain in the draw, the lowest totals for a major in well over a decade.

The four remaining women's seeds are led by Serena Williams [1] who played the very last match of the week, under the lights and roof of Centre Court, notching her 600th career win and 34th in her current winning streak by dispatching 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-2 6-0. The others are Li Na [6], last year's Wimbledon finalist Agnieska Radwanska [4] and 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova [8]. Kvitova is safely in the bottom half of the draw, but to reach her second major final the Czech lefty will need to get past a hungry young player like Sloane Stephens (the American youngster who is also the last player to beat Serena at a grand slam tournament in over a year) or a wily veteran like 2007 Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli, the last woman to beat Serena at Wimbledon (which she did in the Round of 16 in 2011).

The five remaining men's seeds are  Novak Djokovic [1]Andy Murray [2], David Ferrer [4], Tomas Berdych [7] and Juan Martin del Potro [8]. Astonishingly, Murray is the only member of the Top 10 in his half of the draw, so in the top half Djokovic will have to go through Tommy Haas [13] in the 4th round, potentially 2010 Wimbledon finalist Berdych in the quarterfinals and most likely the winner of the Ferrer-del Potro showdown in the semifinal. If all that happens, then the 2011 Wimbledon champion would face last year's Wimbledon finalist in this year's final.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Gaytterdämmerung: Victory For Same-Sex Binational Couples!

The amazing good news for LGBT people during 2013's pride season continues. Wednesday the Supreme Court issued two pro-gay decisions in Windsor and Hollingsworth. Thursday was the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall riots (and yours truly gave a well-received speech at work on the occasion). Friday, marriage equality was restored in California. And today comes word that the federal government has approved a permanent residence application (i.e. for a green card) from a U.S. citizen (resident in a state which does not allow or recognize same-sex marriage) based on a legal same-sex marriage.

This means that the nightmare situation faced by same-sex binational couples who could not find a way to stay together due to homophobic immigration laws is now consigned to the dustbin of history. As a board member of the national organization devoted to assisting same-sex binational couples and having been in a binational relationship myself this is incredibly satisfying news!

Lavi Soloway of the DOMA Project confirmed the news to Buzzfeed:
The DOMA Project, whose lawyers represent the couple, announced the news Saturday morning, calling it “the first time in U.S. history a marriage-based green card petition filed by a gay couple has been approved.”
“As a gay immigrant and as an immigration attorney and gay rights activist who has worked on this issue for 20 years, this is a moment of particular personal satisfaction, Lavi Soloway, the couple’s lawyer and a founder of The DOMA Project, told BuzzFeed on Saturday.
“The approval of this petition demonstrates that the Obama administration’s commitment to recognizing same-sex couples’ marriages after the Supreme Court ruling is now a reality on the ground. We expect additional approvals of green card applications and petitions in the coming days,” Soloway said.
“It is symbolically very important that this first petition that was approved comes for a couple that lives in Florida, a state that has a constitutional ban preventing same-sex couples from marrying. This shows the effect of the DOMA ruling for immigration purposes will extend to couples, no matter where they live, so long as they have a valid marriage license,” Soloway said.
Amazing news! Immigration laws are incredibly complicated, but Immigration Equality has a very useful list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) that binational couples should review before taking any drastic steps.

Happy Pride!

GRAPHIC: Rapid Increase In Populations Living With Marriage Equality

Nate Silver crunches the numbers and creates some graphics to depict the rapid increase in the number of people who are living in countries with marriage equality, in the United States and around the World.
By Aug. 1, same-sex marriage will be legal in California, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Washington — all states where it was not legal one year earlier. 
There are about 59 million people living in these seven states, which means that the availability of same-sex marriage in the United States as a percentage of population will have more than doubled within the year. As of early last year, same-sex marriage was legal only in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia, which have 35 million people among them. 
The availability of same-sex marriage is increasing almost as rapidly on a global scale. It was legalized in Brazil and France earlier this year and will become legal in Uruguay and New Zealand by August. 
Earlier this year, France, with a population of about 64 million, became the largest European country to legalize same-sex marriage, and the largest in the world to do so by legislative action
By August, there will be about 585 million people living in countries or jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is legal. That is roughly double the 289 million people living in such places in August 2012.
His worldwide numbers depend on the question of how widespread marriage equality is available in Brazil, with its 139 million residents. Silver has a nice graphic depicting the growth in marriage equality worldwide as well:

He also points out that with California joining the ranks of marriage equality states (as it did yesterday!) by the end of August there will be a higher percentage of Americans living under marriage equality (95 million out of 314 million, or 30 percent) than Europeans (169 million residents out of 736 million, or 23 percent).

Hat/tip to Five Thirty Eight

WATCH: AFER's Highlight Reel on Prop. 8 Case

This is a fun video depicting the momentous events from June 26, 2013 when the U.S. Supreme Court issued not one but two rulings in favor of marriage equality!

A key thing to note in the video is that it appears as if somehow President Obama (or the White House) has HRC head Chad Griffin's cellphone number?)

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Friday, June 28, 2013

Gaytterdämmerung: Prop 8 is Dead! Marriage Equality Returns To California

With a short 1 sentence order published at 3:21pm PDT, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the stay of their 2012 decision in Hollingsworth v. Perry, eschewing the typical 25-day wait for the United States Supreme Court ruling to be officially communicated to them, putting the district court ruling of Perry v Brown back into effect, returning marriage equality to California and its nearly 40 million residents.

The order was simple but its effect was not: "The stay in the above matter is dissolved effective immediately."

American Foundation for Equal Rights sent out the information 12 minutes later by tweet:
The above picture is of the Northern California plaintiffs, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, getting their marriage license in San Francisco City Hall. with Bruce Cohen, Dustin Lance Black, Chad Griffin in the background behind them.

Woo hoo!!

OPM Memo on Federal Benefits to Same-Sex Married Couples

Queer Quote: Gov. Christie (R-NJ) Denounces DOMA Ruling

Chris Christie is the Republican governor of the very blue state of New Jersey. He is generally considered too moderate for most members of his party but it should not be forgotten how regressive he is on the issue of marriage equality. In 2012, he vetoed a marriage equality bill passed by the state legislature, insisting that the rights of same-sex couples to get married should be subject to a vote of the people of New Jersey.

So, his negative response to this week's landmark Supreme Court ruling striking down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marraige Act in United States v. Windsor is today's Queer Quote:
“I don’t think the ruling was appropriate. I think it was wrong. They, the Court, without a basis in standing, substituted their own judgment for the judgment of a Republican Congress and a Democratic President. In the Republican Congress in the ‘90s and Bill Clinton. I thought that Justice Kennedy’s opinion was, in many respects, incredibly insulting to those people, 340-some members of Congress who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, and Bill Clinton. He basically said that the only reason to pass that bill was to demean people. That’s heck of a thing to say about Bill Clinton and about the Republican Congress back in the ‘90s. And it’s just another example of judicial supremacy, rather than having the government run by the people we actually vote for. So I thought it was a bad decision."
I guess he didn't hear that President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a rare joint statement supporting DOMA's demise:
By overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, the Court recognized that discrimination towards any group holds us all back in our efforts to form a more perfect union. We are also encouraged that marriage equality may soon return to California. We applaud the hard work of the advocates who have fought so relentlessly for this day, and congratulate Edie Windsor on her historic victory.
Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie are widely considered the frontrunners to be opponents in the 2016 presidential election. In New Jersey, more than 60 percent of voters support marriage equality right now. Does Gov. Christie really believe that in 2016 more Americans will support his regressive position denying rights and benefits to legally married same-sex couples than now?

Good luck with that!

Hat/tip to TowleRoad

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Gaytterdämmerung: Historic Headlines on Marriage Cases

Yesterday's historic rulings on same-sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court were reflected in the front pages of the nation's newspapers.

See more at The Newseum!

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

2013 WIMBLEDON: 7 Former #1's All Lost On Day 3

I have been on a plane for most of today, flying back from Los Angeles to Washington, DC. But with time to contemplate the Day of Carnage at Wimbledon (seven former World #1's lost on the same day: Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Lleyton Hewitt, Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki) I am still stunned that Federer's streak of 36 consecutive grand slam quarterfinals would end to Sergiy Stakhovsky! But, the Ukrainian played VERY well, hitting 72 winners to only 17 unforced errors (over 4 sets!). Here are some highlights:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

CA Gov. Brown Tells Clerks To Get Ready

SACRAMENTO – Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today issued the following statement on the United States Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 8 (Hollingsworth v. Perry):

  “After years of struggle, the U.S. Supreme Court today has made same-sex marriage a reality in California. In light of the decision, I have directed the California Department of Public Health to advise the state’s counties that they must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted,” said Governor Brown.   

The effect of today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling is that the 2010 federal district court’s decision that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional is left intact and the law cannot be enforced.   In response, the Governor has directed the California Department of Public Health to advise county officials today that the district court’s injunction against Proposition 8 applies statewide and that all county clerks and county registrar/recorders must comply with it. However, same-sex Californians will not be able to marry until the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals confirms the stay of the injunction, which has been in place throughout the appeals process, is lifted.   

In preparation for this outcome, Governor Brown sought an opinion from California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris on whether the state, through the California Department of Public Health, can advise county clerks and registrar/recorders that they are bound by the federal district court’s ruling that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.   

The Attorney General concluded that the California Department of Public Health “can and should” instruct county officials that they “must resume issuing marriage licenses to and recording the marriages of same-sex” couples. The Department will issue another letter to county officials as soon as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals confirms the stay is lifted.   

2013 WIMBLEDON: Federer Upset By Stakhovsky!

If the upset of Rafael Nadal on Monday in the first round was not momentous enough, it has now been eclipsed by 7-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer going out in the 2nd round to Sergiy Stakhovsky.

The score was 6-7(5) 7-6(5) 7-5 7-6(5). The loss is Federer's first in more than 9 years before the 5th round of a major tournament. His astonishing streak of 36 quarterfinals in a row ended at the most unlikely of venues, on the grass of Wimbledon to a serve and volley player.

The upset came on a day like no other in Wimbledon history. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and John Isner were forced to retire from their matches.

On the women's side Victoria Azarenka[2], Maria Sharapova[3], Caroline Wozniacki[9], Ana Ivanovic[12] and Jelena Jankovic[16] all failed to advance.

White House Issues Statement on DOMA's Demise

Office of the Press Secretary

June 26, 2013

Statement by the President on the Supreme Court Ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act

I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.  This was discrimination enshrined in law.  It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people.  The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it.  We are a people who declared that we are all created equal – and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. 

This ruling is a victory for couples who have long fought for equal treatment under the law; for children whose parents’ marriages will now be recognized, rightly, as legitimate; for families that, at long last, will get the respect and protection they deserve; and for friends and supporters who have wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and have worked hard to persuade their nation to change for the better. 

So we welcome today’s decision, and I’ve directed the Attorney General to work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly.

On an issue as sensitive as this, knowing that Americans hold a wide range of views based on deeply held beliefs, maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom is also vital.  How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions.  Nothing about this decision – which applies only to civil marriages – changes that.  

The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts:  when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free. 


Gaytterdämmerung: DOMA, Prop 8 Both Struck Down 5-4

Double Victory! The Supreme Court has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor, a 5-4 ruling written by Justice Anthony Kennedy joined by the 4 liberal justices.

Additionally, the Supreme Court has decided in Hollingsworth v. Perry that because the proponents lack standing to appear in federal court, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was wrong to hear the appeal of Perry v. Schwarzenegger from Vaughn Walker's powerful district court ruling which found Proposition 8 unconstitutional on August 4, 2010. The effect is that marriages between same-sex couples will resume again in California once the stays on that decision is resolved by the federal courts. That should happen in a few days or weeks. The Perry decision was another 5-4 decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by the  curious combination of Scalia, Kagan, Breyer and Ginsburg. Kennedy wrote the dissenting opinion, which was joined by Thomas, Alito and Sotomayor.

Happy Pride!

Gaytterdämmerung: Windsor and Hollingsworth Out Soon!

Follow SCOTUSblog to get the decisions in the Proposition 8 and DOMA cases as soon as they are released at 10am EDT.

2013 WIMBLEDON Round 1: Nadal(5), Errani(5), Kirilenko(10) Upset

Round 1 of the 2013 Wimbledon Championships is complete. Of course the most significant result of the first two days of play is 2-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal's shocking loss in the first round to Belgian Steve Darcis. However there were other surprising results in the first round on the men's side: Former Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt eliminated #11 seed Stanislas Wawrinka in straight sets. In another curious result Feliciano Lopez beat #17 seed Gilles Simon; this was the second time in three days they had met because Lopez also beat Simon in the finals of Eastbourne on Sunday.

On the women's side of the draw, the #5 seed also went out in the first round when Puerto Rican teenager Monica Puig beat clay court specialist Sara Errani and British hope Laura Robson ignored the pressure of a nation and beat Maria Kirilenko in straight sets.

Top seeds Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga all won their first round matches relatively easily. Additionally, on the women's side Serena Williams won her first match in 57 minutes, extending her current winning streak to 32 consecutive matches. She will face talented French youngster Caroline Garcia in the 2nd round. Maria Sharapova, Angelique Kerber, Aggie Radwanska, and Victoria Azarenka all won their first round matches. Azarenka had an injury scare after she went down hard in her match but she was still able to win easily. If she is not 100% she could be in trouble in her second round match against Flavia Pennetta.

Second Round matches to take note of
Li Na [6] versus Simona Halep, Madison Keys versus Mona Barthel [30], Sloane Stephens[17] versus Andrea Petkovic and Marion Bartoli [15] versus Christina McHale.

Feliciano Lopez versus Paul-Henri Mathieu, James Blake versus Bernard Tomic, Tsonga versus Ernests Gulbis and Hewitt versus Dustin Brown.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

SCOTUS Fatally Wounds The 1965 Voting Right Act

Today the GOP's War on Voting was extended to the Supreme Court, when the 5 Republican justices (Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia and Kennedy) voted to effectively kill one of the most significant federal civil rights statutes in the United States, the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Just as the words "fatally wounded" are are used to deliberately obfuscate people from understanding that the subject has been killed, so did the majority opinion fatally wound the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in Shelby County v Holder. All attention was on Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, so the opinion upheld that section of the law but struck down Section 4 of the law. However, Section 5 can not be implemented without Section 4.

NBC News reports:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — the map that determines which states must get federal permission before they change their voting laws. The ruling, a 5-4 decision by Chief Justice John Roberts, leaves the future of the law deeply uncertain because it will be up to a sharply divided Congress to redraw the map. 
“Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions,” Roberts wrote for the court. Under the law, nine mostly Southern states must get permission from the Justice Department or a special panel of three federal judges before they make changes. The rule also applies to 12 cities and 57 counties elsewhere.

Basically, despite the fact the VRA was reauthorized nearly unanimously by Congress in 2006 (it passed 98-0 in the Senate) the Supreme Court GOP majority struck down the current formula found in VRA Section 4 that the Justice Department uses to determine which jurisdictions need to have their election laws "pre-cleared" before they can go into effect. Without that formula, the Justice Department will not be able to challenge provisions it suspects are being issued (primarily by Republican politicians) to dilute the voting rights of people of color throughout the United States. In the 2012 election the bizarre laws and procedures GOP governors and Secretaries of State attempted to enact to prevent racial and ethnic minorities from voting became increasingly obvious and resulted in a huge voter turnout by those groups, aiding President Obama's re-election  in the end.

This is a huge loss for people who believe in civil rights and an America where all citizens have equal rights. Chief Justice John Roberts knows that by giving this Congress the option to pass a new federal law with a formula to give the the federal government the right to intervene in elections where a majority of Republican House members represent is simply not going to happen any time soon. Most definitely not before the 2014 midterm elections, and probably not before the 2016 presidential election. (Note that the next Congress will most likely be even more hostile to the civil rights of racial and ethnic minorities and actions by the federal government to protect those rights than the current Congress is, and that's saying a lot!) So, basically the Court has killed the VRA while "keeping their fingerprints off the murder weapon" as MSNBC's Chris Hayes said on TV today.

Happily, the LGBT rights community is stepping up to the plate and denouncing the Supreme Court's actions in Shelby County with a joint statement:
We, America’s leading LGBT advocacy organizations, join civil rights organizations – and indeed, all Americans whom this law has served to protect – in expressing acute dismay at today’s ruling. Not only had Congress repeatedly reaffirmed the need for this bedrock civil rights protection, but authoritative voices from across America had filed amicus briefs urging the court not to undermine the law: the NAACP; the American Bar Association; the Navajo Nation; the states of New York, California, Mississippi and North Carolina; numerous former Justice Department officials charged with protecting voting rights; dozens of U.S. senators and representatives; and many others. 
These varied and powerful voices attest to the self-evident reality that racial protections are still needed in voting in this country. As recently as last year’s elections, political partisans resorted to voter suppression laws and tactics aimed at reducing the votes of people of color.  Voting rights protections, which have long served our nation’s commitment to equality and justice, should not be cast aside now. The court has done America a grave disservice, and we will work with our coalition partners to undo the damage inflicted by this retrogressive ruling.
The statement was signed by the usual suspects: The Task Force, HRC, Pride at Work, Immigration Equality, Lambda Legal, Freedom To Marry, National Center for Lesbian Rights,  GMHC, GLAD, National Black Justice Coalition, Family Equality Council, PFLAG, and others.

The graphic at the top of this post is from the Williams Institute analysis of where African-American same-sex couples live throughout the United States. So, a diminution of the electoral rights and concomitant political power of racial and ethnic minorities does impact the LGBT community, because the LGBT community encompasses all racial and ethnic minorities.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Gaytterdämmerung: Prop 8 and DOMA Decisions Tomorrow 10am EDT

Tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Lawrence vs Texas which struck down the nation's remaining sodomy laws, ending the "gay exception" to the Constitution by restoring privacy rights to LGB citizens. It will also be known as the day the fates of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 were determined.

The Supreme Court has announced it will release its decisions in United States vs Windsor (DOMA) and Hollingsworth v. Perry (Proposition 8) cases tomorrow. My prediction is that the good guys will win both of them, with DOMA going down 6-3 and Proposition 8 being effectively struck down by either being remanded back to the 9th U.S. Circuit or declared to be improvidently granted by a large majority (possibly even 7-2).

Monday, June 24, 2013

2013 WIMBLEDON: Nadal Loses to Darcis(#135) in 1st Round!

For the first time ever, Rafael Nadal has lost in the 1st round, and it comes just weeks after he won his record 8th French Open title, losing to Steve Darcis of Belgium 7-6(4) 7-6(8) 6-4 in the first round of Wimbledon.

Is this loss by Nadal an even bigger upset than last year's 2nd round 5-set defeat by Lukas Rosol? Probably. In that match, the Spaniard was able to come back to win the 4th set and even though he was blown out in the 5th set, it was a much closer match than today's loss. Today, Nadal never looked comfortable on the grass today and he did well to keep the match as close as it was. He served for the second set at 6-5 (after breaking in the 10th game) and held a set point (on his opponent's serve) in the tiebreaker.

However after losing the second set tiebreaker Nadal was broken in the first set of the 3rd set and Darcis was able to eventually serve out the match, saving multiple breakpoints with excellent movement and a wicked slice backhand. The Belgian ended the match with 53 winners (to only 24 unforced errors), including 13 aces (even one on match point!). Nadal also had more winners than errors also. By the end, Nadal's movement was definitely compromised and was clearly impacted by his wonky left knee. Last year after the Rosol loss, Nadal did not play for the rest of the year.

Oh well, the Federer-Nadal quarter that people were looking forward to when the draw was first released is not going to happen now, and it means that the biggest match of the tournament will be the Andy Murray-Roger Federer semifinal (a reprise of last year's Wimbledon final won by Federer). Can we stop talking about whether Nadal or Federer is the best player of all time? Federer has never lost in early rounds of the clay court major while now Nadal has lost in the first and second rounds of the grass court major. In fact, this was Nadal's first 1st round loss in a major  tournament and Darcis at #135 is the lowest ranked opponent Rafa has lost to sincehe fell to Joach Johannson in 2006. Darcis is a good grass court player and last year upset 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych at the London Olympics. That win and the one against Nadal today are the only Top 10 wins  of his career so far.

No LGBT SCOTUS Rulings Today, Tuesday Possible

Gaytterdämmerung delayed! The Supreme Court usually issues its decisions on Mondays and Thursdays so there was wide expectation at least one of the four major cases remaining (Fisher, Shelby County, Hollingsworth or Windsor) would be released today.

The only case that was released was Fisher, in which the court ruled 7-1 that it was vacating a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the University of Texas' affirmative action program. It remanded the case back to reconsider its analysis of strict scrutiny involving racial classifications in view of the Court's previous decisions in Grutter and Bakke. Basically, the Court decided to give itself more time to issue a final ruling on the question of whether race can play a role in university admissions (and whether "diversity" in a student body can be a compelling state interest). So the first of the four "blockbuster cases" ended up being a dud! Since a decision that could have made affirmative action illegal anywhere in the United States was a distinct possibility from the conservative majority, today's ruling must be considered a "surprising win" for progressives and good people who support civil rights and equality.

More importantly, the Court announced that it will issue decisions tomorrow (there are 6 decisions left), which means that the plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 case will have to wait a bit longer to discover when they can get legally married in California.

I still expect that the marriage cases will not be announced until Thursday June 27th. Stay tuned!

Eye Candy: Kieran Jones (black and white)

Kieran Jones has appeared as Eye Candy before (on April 15, 2013). He's a young British fitness model. Stunning Men and Boys has many more pictures of him (in color). Kieran appears to sometimes go by the name Kieran Cogdon, but I think his professional model name is Kieran Jones, so that is how we will refer to him.

It's somewhat hard to find many pictures of Kieran, which is a shame, because as you can see, he is very photogenic!

Anyway, enjoy these shots...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Obama Nominates John Berry As Ambassador to Australia

John Berry was the highest ranked openly LGBT appointee
 in the Obama Administration from 2009-2013

The same day the Berry nomination was announced, another gay man named Wally Brewster was nominated to become Ambassador to the Dominican Republic.
John Berry served as the Director of the Office of Personnel Management from April 2009 to April 2013.  Previously, he was the Director of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park from 2005 to 2009, and the Executive Director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation from 2000 to 2005.  From 1997 to 2000, Mr. Berry served as Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget at the Department of the Interior.  From 1995 to 1997, he was Director of Government Relations and Senior Policy Advisor at the Smithsonian Institution.  He joined the federal government in 1994 as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Law Enforcement at the Department of Treasury.  Before joining the Department of Treasury, Mr. Berry was the Legislative Director for U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer.  Mr. Berry received a B.A. from the University of Maryland, College Park and an M.P.A. from Syracuse University.
James “Wally” Brewster, Jr. is the Senior Managing Partner for SB&K Global, a brand strategy and consumer dynamics consulting firm based in Chicago, Illinois.  Before starting SB&K Global in 2010, he was an Officer and Senior Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Communications with General Growth Properties (GGP), a real estate investment trust headquartered in Chicago.  Prior to joining GGP in 1996, Mr. Brewster worked in management at several real estate companies in Texas, including The Rouse Company and the DeBartolo Corporation.  Earlier in his career, he held marketing and management positions with Carla Francis, Inc. and the Jim Collins Company in Dallas, Texas.  Mr. Brewster is a National LGBT Co-Chair for the Democratic National Committee and currently serves on the Board of the Human Rights Campaign Fund.
That brings the number of openly gay men who have been nominated as ambassadors in the Obama administration in the month of June to five! It should also be noted that the current Ambassador to New Zealand (which is basically next door to Australia) is openly gay David Heubner.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday Politics: The Marriage Equality Map After Next Week

This is a screenshot from a useful interactive map created by the New Yorker which demonstrates the possible scenarios of the likely outcomes in the two Gaytterdämmerung cases before the United States Supreme Court expected to be announced by Thursday June 27.

As I have indicated in the graphic, the most likely outcome is that DOMA is struck down in U.S. v. Windsor and Proposition 8 is struck down due to a lack of standing by proponents in Hollingsworth v. Perry. This would result in same-sex couples having access to full state and federal marriage equality in 13 states and the District of Columbia by the end of the summer (Delaware's marriage law goes into effect on July 1; Rhode Island and Minnesota on August 1).

The great thing is by this time next week we will know with great certainty what the marriage map will look like in the near future.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Friday, June 21, 2013

2013 WIMBLEDON: The Draw Is Out; Rafa-Raja QF Likely

Oh my! When the news was confirmed that 2-time champion (and 3-time finalist) Rafael Nadal was seeded #5 at this year's Wimbledon, the immediate question was, whose quarter would he be in? It turns out that he landed in 7-time champion Roger Federer's quarter. This is both good and bad news for Roger. It is bad because he has lost to Nadal twice so far this year, on hard courts in Indian Wells and on clay in Rome and all of his losses at Wimbledon have occurred in either the quarterfinals (2011 l. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or 2010 l. Tomas Berdychor in the 2008 final to Nadal. However it is also good news for Federer fans, because while Nadal still has a 20-10 overall head-to-head lead on Federer, the Great One has a 2-1 lead on grass. The quarterfinal, if it occurs would be Federer 37th consecutive in a major, and occur on Monday July 1.

In fact, the bottom half of the draw not only contains former champs Federer and Nadal, it also contains Andy Murray, the #2 seed and the Great Hope of Britain for the first homegrown Wimbledon champion since 1936. Murray could meet Tsonga in the quarters, a repeat of last year's semifinal won by the Brit in four nervy sets. Also lurking in the bottom half of the draw are 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt, John Isner and Mikhail Youzhny. In the top half of the men's draw 2011 champion and World #1 Novak Djokovic has Berdych in his quarter, with the other quarter being an unlikely match-up between David Ferrer and Juan Martin del Potro.

On the women's side of the draw World #1 and defending champion Serena Williams is the clear favorite to win the tournament. She should have no problem getting to her quarterfinal against Angelique Kerber, last year's semifinalist (if the German gets past Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the first round). In the bottom quarter of the top half of the draw, last year's finalist Agnieska Radwanska (Andy Murray's favourite WTA player!) could face Li Na in the quarterfinals. Just like with the men, the bottom half of the draw is where all the action is. 2013 Australian Open champ Victoria Azarenka and 2004 champion Maria Sharapova could meet in yet another major semifinal, while 2011 Wimbledon champion also lurks, as the Belarussian's potential quarterfinal opponent. Sharapova could potentially meet Sara Errani in a quarterfinal matchup, but most likely either Marion Bartoli or the winner of the first round slugfest between American youngsters Sloane Stephens and Jamie Hampton will be the Russian's opponent there.

Other first round match-ups of note are Heather Watson versus Madison Keys, Daniela Hantuchova versus Klara Zakopalova, Sabine Lisicki versus Francesca Schiavone, and Laura Robson versus  Maria Kirilenko.

Men's first rounders to keep an eye on are Hewitt versus Stanislas Wawrinka, Bernard Tomic versus Sam Querrey and Marcos Baghdatis against Marin Cilic.

Last year I correctly predicted all men's and women's quarterfinals, semifinals and finals, so it is unlikely I will repeat that performance again. However, I am sure this year will of course be an exciting tournament.



I've been stuck in a hotel ballroom in Sacramento, California for most of the last week so at the suggestion of my fellow shut-ins we decided to blow off some steam celebrating our imminent release by attending a example of mindless filmed entertainment, in this case, the movie World War Z starring Brad Pitt. We saw the film at a "midnight screening" at 8:30pm Thursday night at the United Artists Arden Fair 6.

World War Z is directed by Marc Forster (Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland, Quantum of Solace) and with a team of writers that includes Damon Lindelof (Prometheus, Lost) and J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, Thor), who are attempting to adapt the best-selling book by Max Brooks.

The movie starts off with a bang and never stops moving. In the first 5 minutes after a short domestic interlude with Pitt as a stay-at-home dad and a vaguely European wife and two cute daughters, we see move the family in the hell of early morning traffic in downtown Philadelphia to a nightmare of a completely different kind as all hell breaks loose as zombies start to ravage the city.

We discover that the job Pitt is staying home from somehow was prominent enough that he can call the deputy secretary-general of the United Nations and that in the world the movie depicts the United Nations has enough clout to have boats, helicopters and planes to maintain a semblance of civilization in the face of an apocalypse.

I don't want to give away too much of the movie. I would say that it is not a great movie (it's not as good as Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later but it is definitely better than Steven Soderbergh's Contagion). Both of these films were made by men who have won Best Director Oscars. Forster has been nominated by the Academy before and he does good work here (almost certainly not to be recognized in February). The story doesn't make much sense but there are some very arresting visuals and there's an absolutely stunning sequence that looks like it was actually shot in Jerusalem.

Overall, World War Z is a fun summer diversion that has you gripping the edge of your seat for 90 minutes straight without over-burdening one's reasoning centers.

Title: World War Z.
Director: Marc Forster.
Running Time: 1 hour, 51 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense frightening zombie sequences, violence and disturbing images.
Release Date: June 21, 2013.
Viewing Date: June 20, 2013.

Writing: C+.
Acting: B+.
Visuals: B+.
Impact: B.

Overall Grade: B (3.0/4.0).

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Now There Are 4: 52 Senators Support ENDA

The number of Democratic U.S. senators who do not publicly support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (the most prominent piece of federal legislation currently pending before the U.S. Senate) has now been reduced to four! Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) announced today that he supports ENDA, bringing the number of supporters in that body to 52.

Just recently I blogged about the fact that majority support for ENDA had been achieved in the Senate. Since then, a Republican senator has announced that she now supports marriage equality and Delaware passed a law embodying the protections found in ENDA. Rockefeller had previously announced that he was retiring and not running for re-election in 2014. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) is aso not running for re-election; perhaps he will become the next of the four Democratic holdouts to realize that LGBT non-discrimination is a core Democratic principle.

Queer Quote: Ex-Gay Org Head Alan Chambers Apologizes

Alan Chambers is the longtime head of Exodus International, the oldest and largest "ex-gay" organization which for decades has insisted on a promoting a "religious ministry" that it could heal homosexual and turn them straight. Yesterday, at the annual conference of Exodus, Chambers issued an astonishing apology for his actions harming the LGBT community and later announced that Exodus itself would shut down.

An excerpt from Chambers' (somewhat long) apology for three decades of preaching "gay=sin" is today's Queer Quote:
Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.
It occurs to me that it is interesting that just as we wait to see if the expected advances in LGBT equality materialize at the Supreme Court, one of the key bulwarks of the anti-gay movement impeding that progress is going to be going away.

Game of Thrones (S3E10): "Mhysa"

The tenth and final episode of Season 3 of HBO's Game of Thrones aired Sunday June 9. The Season 3 finale (S3E10) was titled "Mhysa" which means "Mother" in one of the many languages of Essos. Here at we have been blogging every single episode of Season 3 of Game of Thrones, the first time we have blogged an entire season of a television show. It was hard work but enjoyable, and with this post now I have my reactions to each of the episodes in Season 3 on record for posterity.

This last post has taken me awhile to write partly because I have been in four different cities since I watched the finale live while in Washington, D.C. But it has also been difficult to write because it is hard to face the reality that the next new episode of my favorite television show will not be available for 9-10 months, probably in late March 2014!

The most important line from the episode, as is the case with most episodes in which he appears, was spoken by Conleth Hill's Lord Varys when he said "Here only the family name matters" to Tyrion Lannister's wife's maid (and his lover), Shae. The fact that Shae and Varys do not have a n important family name, or any family name at all, like Lannister, Stark, Bolton, Frey, Tyrell, Tarly or Greyjoy means that in the universe of Game of Thrones they are automatically doomed to subaltern status.

After last week's decapitation of the family the audience most identifies with, i.e. the Starks of Winterfell through jaw-dropping treachery and obscene  violence, "Mhysa" has a much more low-key feel to it, although multiple important events do occur.

One of these is the conversation between Varys and Shae where he offers the former slave a near-fortune in diamonds, enough money to set up her own household in a far-away land, if she will only abandon Tyrion Lannister and exit his life. Bizarrely, Shae refuses the money. Another important scene is the confrontation between Jon Snow and Ygritte, where the former lovers tried to reconcile their different understandings of loyalty and faith, unsuccessfully, It ended with Jon on a horse galloping away with three of Ygritte's arrows protruding from his punctured flesh. Another important scene was the chance meeting between Brandon Stark and Samwell Tarly, which neatly showed how the fates of the two characters are intertwined yet, moving in very opposite directions, as Brandon "needs" to go beyond The Wall, while Sam very much wants to get back to his home with the Night's Watch on the "right side: of the Wall.

There were several high points to this episode, with the primary ones being:

  • The look on Cersei's face as she turns around and find a one-handed, somewhat nervous, silent Jaime (her brother and the father of her children!), standing in her King's Landing doorway was thrilling. The actor did a great job wordlessly communicating the character's joy, sadness, relief and curiosity in just a lingering glance.
  • Arya's transformation from spoiled tom boy to dangerous girl who likes to (and does) kill people if the attitude strikes her. This time she did it as a sudden revenge for a hapless Frey bragging about the death rattle of Arya's mom.
  • As usual, Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister, the "real" king of Westeros was fantastic. First he continued to devastate the psyche of his son Tyrion, this time explaining that he put his love for family ahead of his own disgust at the birth of his own dwarf child, because even that child would possess the Lannister name. Second, he literally commanded his grandson, i.e. the King of Westeros, to go to bed without his supper. The show is indicating that there is likely to be a future blow up between Joffrey and those who dare to try to control or limit his royal powers.

  • The primary low light was the final scene of the episode, and thus the season. It showed Dany, one of the most important characters in the ongoing Game of Thrones, being carried on the shoulders of the people she has just freed from slavery, who spontaneously start chanting the word "Mhysa" (Mother). The optics of the situation are just overwhelmingly negative. As the image at the top of this post indicates, Dany is very, very pale, with white-blonde hair and blue-eyes. To have her walk into a sea of dark-brown people who are chanting her name and lifting them up on their shoulders simply reeks of multiple racially problematic tropes we have seen before (the great white hope rescuing the unwashed, powerless brown people).

Grade: B+/A-.
Overall, this was definitely a let down from S3E09 and was the weakest of the three Season finales so far (S1E10 we saw the birth of the dragons and in S2E10 we saw the arrival of the army of the White Walkers). There are simply no obviously narrative-altering events that occur in the episode. That being said, there are plenty of traditional cliffhangers to pique our curiosity for the long wait until S4E01.  Some of these are: How will Jaime and Cersei's relationship be changed by his disfigurement? Will Jon survive his wounds inflicted by Ygritte? Will Walder Frey and Roose Bolton get away with their treachery of the Red Wedding unscathed? Will Gendry survive a voyage on the open sea in a small boat? Will Yara be able to actually rescue her little brother?


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